CISOs have to watch out for higher security risks in 2019 amid increasing connectivity and greater demand for telecommunication services, The Economist Intelligence Unit said.

In a special report called Telecoms in 2019 released last week, the EIU said the rollout of fifth-generation (5G) technology – intended to support the development of a sharing economy, autonomous technology, artificial intelligence, big data and expanding IoT – will be the vector for the new risks. 

This brings into sharp focus the trade-offs involved in advanced connectivity,” said the EIU.

5G technology will start rolling out in several markets next year, according to the EIU which covered 60 countries in its study. “In the UK, [mobile network operator and ISP] EE aims to roll out a 5G network by October 2019, well in advance of plans outlined by most European rivals. In the US, Sprint is preparing for 5G rollout in nine states in the first half of 2019, while its competitor, T-Mobile, is also looking at an initial rollout next year.”

Meanwhile, device manufacturers will be ready to deploy 5G-ready smartphones, with Motorola and LG scheduling launches for 2019.

The higher risk comes from businesses using more agile and sophisticated technology to make operations more efficient or to open up new revenue streams.

But it’s not just businesses consuming telecom services in greater ways.

Consumers are turning to smartphones, tablets and wearables in ever greater numbers, stoking demand for data and forcing operators and technology companies to accommodate increasingly digitally-driven lifestyles,” the EIU said.

According to the EIU, demand for internet services is already high globally and will increase further in 2019. Mobile subscriber numbers will increase from 6.4 billion this year to 6.6 billion in 2019.

In an earlier report on technological readiness, the EIU said that nearly half of the global population had access to the internet in 2017; by 2022, the number is seen to rise to three-quarters. “With broadband penetration already high in the West, most of this growth will come from Latin America and the Middle East, both of which are attracting significant amounts of broadband investment from the private sector.”

Meanwhile, in the Telecoms report, the EIU said: “Many developing nations continue to push for greater internet coverage, especially among rural populations, while networks in mature markets focus on providing greater speed.”

Major data breaches observed this year highlight the need for both governments and the private sector to respond effectively, even as regulations are too far behind the speed of technological advances.

In the US, the National Defense Authorization Act will include efforts to improve cybersecurity in both the military and civilian life. In the EU, member states will be putting into action the requirements of the 2016 Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems, which includes the establishment of a regional cybersecurity agency,” according to the study.

A large cyber-attack, particularly against the financial system, health systems or crucial energy assets, could pose a significant geopolitical risk,” the EIU said.

An attack on a company could cripple supply chains at all levels of society, from transport to food distribution.”